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Noni Young Garden Design
A business tree change
Noni Young’s business is blooming with help from the Small Business Mentoring Service.
After 20 years working in pharmaceutical sales and marketing, Noni left to study horticulture and start her own garden design and maintenance business.
She started Noni Young Garden Design, which makes good use of the Master of Urban Horticulture she gained in 2010. The business provides professional garden design, horticultural advice, personal training in the garden and garden maintenance for residential clients.
“I am passionate about gardens and good design,” says Noni, who works with residential clients in the Melbourne metropolitan area and the Mornington Peninsula.
“My philosophy is to provide the client with a design that is sensitive to place, respecting of the environment and suited to the climate. I apply sustainable design principles and design with native and indigenous plants where possible."
Noni discovered SBMS through a City of Whitehorse Women in Business program. Six mentoring sessions were offered as part of the program, which was perfect timing for this new business.
Initially, Noni felt she needed a mentor to guide her through the vast amount of course work and help her focus on what was relevant. It could also help her develop her business plan.
Noni was matched with Elizabeth Raut, who spent 10 years as the Victorian manager of the Australian Institute of Architects, where she worked on all aspects of running an organisation including financial management. Before this she worked in the health sector in a range of business-related roles.
SBMS is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.
Noni had six sessions with Elizabeth under the Women in Business program and mentoring is continuing. Elizabeth immediately sensed that Noni was underquoting and suggested she add a percentage to her price to better reflect the professional service provided and turn her business into a profitable enterprise.
“I encouraged Noni to set clear deliverables for all projects including/especially for friends, as well as realistic timelines and expectations and an agreed budget,” Elizabeth says.
“I suggested Noni develop a formulae to return to projects six or twelve months after she had completed the work to see how the garden is growing in relation to hers and her client’s expectations, and to take up-to-date photographs.”
Elizabeth also gave Noni feedback on her website and recommended she add a segment about herself, as she is the person clients work with and potential clients will be interested in. She also suggested that Noni:
- Ask some of her ‘Personal Training in the Garden’ clients if they would be willing to have a case study written about their work with Noni posted on website
- Review her time management skills, develop a weekly calendar and build discipline into her weekly schedule
- Plan a design project from the first day of briefing to the day of delivering the plan to the client and block out times in her diary for forward planning activity
- Add some product areas to her service offering and market them as specific pieces of work
- Develop her ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing as it is working and could be expanded
- Further develop/expand her ‘points-of-difference’/compelling purchasing benefits
- Review the Action Plan in her Business Plan quarterly and acknowledge completed actions so she can feel good about her business achievements.
Elizabeth says that when they met, Noni’s passion was design and she was focused on developing her design analysis, knowledge and skill. Noni is now getting closer to design projects being the major component of her business, instead of maintenance work.
“She created a database of clients from the job files since day one of the business and is now sorting and analysing the data and has identified the various avenues from which projects have come, as well as the potential areas to grow the business,” Elizabeth says.
“She was keen to define and promote urban horticulture - thinking globally and acting locally, as well as focusing on connecting people with gardens and increased her marketing program substantially … including producing beautiful new promotional material.”
“She revised a promotional presentation to deliver to one of her networking groups, based on ‘why garden design is important, why select me to design your garden and what the benefits will be’. She has a clear direction to grow her business and to measure and analyse where she is at and where she needs to go.”
Since seeing Elizabeth, sales have increased and operating profits rose in the following financial year. Noni is extremely pleased with the results so far and with Elizabeth’s professionalism. “Elizabeth has been extremely easy to work with and very generous with her time,” she says. “I have found her to be firm but encouraging.
“She has provided unbiased advice and feedback which has been invaluable. My regular (two-monthly) meetings keep me focussed on what is important in the business and how I am tracking against my goals and action plan. The process keeps me accountable.”
Noni says her biggest weakness is in undervaluing her capabilities and services, which Elizabeth also addressed. “I have a tendency to underquote/undercharge for my services,” she says. “Elizabeth has been extremely patient with helping me break through this barrier.”
“I have a good business model with good products and a lot of potential but I need to focus more on the high priority, income-generating activities and charge accordingly so that I can meet and exceed my financial goals.”
If she hadn’t seen Elizabeth, Noni believes she would not have had a clear focus on how to build and grow her business.
“I fear that without SBMS, all the study and work I did in the Women in Business program would be sitting on the shelf gathering dust,” she says. “The SBMS process has kept me accountable and focused. I think it's an excellent service and very good value for money.”
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